“This was one of the best things that I have ever done as an educator,” Dodgen Middle School Assistant Administrator Cathy Massett said during her one-hour presentation. “I walked away being invigorated and energized … just ready to hit the road with our staff.”
The presentations were given at Hillgrove High School in Powder Springs as part of the district’s 2012 Leadership Kick-Off event and lasted about an hour each. Roughly 30 administrators attended each presentation.
Massett and Dodgen Principal Robin Lattizori talked about “Common Core, Rigor, Relevance, Quad D Lessons and Flip Classrooms! How do we pull it all together?” during their hour-long presentation.
Using what they learned at the conference, they demonstrated how to take vocabulary about the four forces of flight for a language arts lesson and make it interactive and more relevant for today’s students.
The activity involved the duo grouping administrators in groups of five, watching a video about the Wright Brothers, and having each group collaboratively talk about the forces of flight, draw them, and then use that vocabulary to build a paper airplane and fly it down the hallway.
“This lets students learn about more than just the vocabulary,” Lattizori said. “This took (the lesson) up to the next level. When students are more interactive with their learning, they can retain it longer and apply it.”
Lessons like this are available on the Next Network, a collection of education resources that Lattizori learned about at the conference and has purchased with Dodgen Partners in Education funds for an annual subscription fee of about $2,500.
“We are looking at higher-level learning … (and) moving students from learning information to taking it and applying it,” she said. “The more tools (you give a teacher), the more effective they can be and the more time they can spend teaching students.”
Lattizori, Massett and two Dodgen teachers, Jennifer Crawford and Curry Wilkes, attended the Model Schools Conference after hearing from one of its organizers, Dr. Bill Daggett, last January during a district administrator’s meeting.
“Everything he shared with us about the ways that we need to look at teaching our students as far as teaching them for our future as opposed our past, it really sparked something in me in knowing that I needed to learn more about that,” Lattizori said.
Lattizori said Dodgen would also be one of the first schools in Cobb to implement the Bring Your Own Device initiative for next school year.
They will be using it in their eighth-grade math team’s classrooms where students will be encouraged to bring laptops, tablets or other electronic devices to class.
“We are really excited about this,” Lattizori said.
The district is also considering implementing BYOD at Lost Mountain, Floyd, Daniell, Smitha and Pine Mountain middle schools.
Because of what she learned at the conference, Lattizori has also decided to change some practices, including having fewer grade level meetings, allowing meeting-free weeks, reconfiguring the teacher clusters, changing detention and duty responsibilities, and collaborating on lesson logs.
She is also implementing a “relationships” strategy, where teachers and administrators will be assigned 14 students each whom they will meet with weekly to discuss things on a personal level.
“There’s just a lot of research that shows that if you have a personal connection with students, if you know them personally and you care about them, it’s that relationship piece that students will want to learn more, will be more active in their learning,” she said.
Lattizori, who has been an educator in Cobb for 25 years, a principal for 14 and at Dodgen for four, said the money spent on the conference was worth it, despite many people in the Cobb community, including some school board members, saying the $300,000 spent for the nearly 150 educators to attend the conference was too much.
“It’s really the best conference I’ve ever been to,” she said, adding that neither parents nor teachers at her school had spoken to her with any concerns about them attending the conference. “That might have been due to the fact that we used funds through (Partners in Education.)”
The school served 1,185 students last school year in sixth through eighth grades and is located off Bill Murdock Road in east Cobb.
Hinojosa sat in on the presentations, including Lattizori and Massett’s and “Using Mobile Technology as a Learning Tool.” presented by Cooper Middle School Art Teacher Amy Johnson.
“I was really impressed with what teachers can do with technology,” he said. “It is amazing how the teacher, who’s an art teacher, uses technology to communicate with her students. (All the presentations) include rigor, relevance and technology, and I am looking at how we embrace the digital environment with substance.”
Four board members — Scott Sweeney, Alison Bartlett, Kathy Angelucci, and David Banks — and Randy Scamihorn, who is running unopposed for Lynnda Eagle’s seat, also sat in on the presentations.
Previously, Hinojosa justified his staff attending the conference by saying that they couldn’t afford the model it currently has.
“We can’t guarantee that we can find a less costly model, but whatever we’re doing right now is too costly, and it’s driven by 90 percent of our money in people,” he said last May.
“We’re a labor-intensive organization, so how can we continue to maintain that when we’re looking at cutting $40 million just out of next year’s budget? That’s unsustainable. The cost driver is staff, so we have to figure out a different way, and technology is going to play a part in that and what it looks like.”
Neither Hinojosa nor Chief Academic Officer Dr. Judi Jones could say how the lessons learned at the conference would be dispersed to every educator in Cobb.